Guwahati, Nov. 20: Snakes or no snakes, spooky or not, Dispur is not going to allow the sprawling bungalow on Cotton College premises to remain unoccupied any more.
Spurned by successive principals of Cotton College for over two decades for reasons ranging from presence of snakes and being spooky, the bungalow will now host the office of the vice-chancellor of the newly set up Cotton College State University (CCSU).
Sources in the education department said the state government had instructed the public works department to renovate the bungalow for use as the office of the vice-chancellor of CCSU.
The Assam Assembly last year passed a legislation to set up the non-affiliating Cotton College State University. Cotton will be its constituent college.
The university is yet to start its academic activities but the government has already appointed Dhrubajyoti Saikia, former director of Pune-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, as its first vice-chancellor.
A state government official said, “Since the old bungalow for principals is lying unused, the government has decided to convert it into the VC’s office so that the CCSU can start its administrative functioning. If Saikia agrees, it can be used as his office-cum-residence.”
Historians say Frederick William Sudmerson, an Englishman and first principal of Cotton College, stayed at the bungalow for 26 years.
Rules mandate principals to stay at the bungalow to maintain discipline on the campus but they have been avoiding staying there for the past two decades, citing various reasons like short service tenure, fear of snakebite, weak and old structure.
The bungalow, which was built in 1883-84 and was earlier known as dak bungalow, was initially used as a transit camp for planters en route to Shillong. The sprawling bungalow could house a dozen persons at a time. It had a lobby, a dining hall and a library. In its adjacent plot of land, there was a stable where pony carts were kept and where horses and coachmen used to take rest.
The sources said the PWD renovated the bungalow in 2004-2005, making it a safe accommodation, but only Indra Kumar Bhattacharyya, who took charge as principal in 2007, has stayed there since.
Saikia could not be contacted but Cotton College principal Nirada Devi, who also does not stay at the bungalow, said she was aware that it might be converted into the CCSU vice-chancellor’s office. “I cannot comment since it is a government decision. According to the Cotton College State University Act, 2011, the university has full authority to use any infrastructure and facility of Cotton College,” she said.